Earlier this year, ILRI joined national and international partners in two ‘feed assessment’ projects in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Livestock Feeds project (funded by ACIAR) and the ‘QuickFeed‘ early win project of the Africa RISING program both set out to test a suite of rapid diagnosis tools to identify promising feed and fodder interventions.
At the recent QuickFeed synthesis meeting, we interviewed Jane Wamatu, Adugna Tolera and Getachew Legesse about their experiences with the FEAST, TechFit and value chain assessment (VCA) tools used in both projects.
Jane and Adugna explained that the first time they used the FEAST and TechFit tools was during the ELF project. By the time of the QuickFeed project they were more experienced and better able to provide training and support to the research teams, and this was one of the reasons why the fieldwork of QuickFeed proceeded more smoothly. Another reason, Getachew felt, was that the research team members were younger and highly motivated, partly because the QuickFeed project was part of the larger Africa RISING project and so researchers were hopeful that their research could be continued under Africa RISING project. Another reason was the improvements resource people made to the tools following ELF. In FEAST, the number of respondents for individual data collection was increased to 9 farmers. In TechFit, the list of technologies was revised and the methodology of VCA was simplified considerably and tailored to fit seamlessly with FEAST and TechFIt.
Jane, Adugna and Getachew agreed that FEAST was very well developed with a clear template, results, analysis and structure for reporting. TechFit, on the other hand, still needed considerable improvements. Adugna felt that the pre-filter worked well but that there is a need to complete and review the list of technologies and their attribute scores. Also, the cost-benefit analysis of potential technologies was very difficult to calculate and required a lot of assumptions. He also felt that there is a need to write fact sheets for each of the technologies. A clear description of potential benefits and cost would also be useful. Finally, there was a need for clear guidelines – a manual – for using the TechFit tool. Having said all this, everyone agreed that there was great potential and need for TechFit.
The VCA tool in QuickFeed was focused on dairy and sheep value chains. This was easier and more useful than the VCA in ELF which focused on feed in general. Getachew felt that VCA now worked well but still required some ‘expert’ guidance during implementation. The reason was that each VCA had different objectives and pathways, and the methodology needed to be adapted to fit the objectives.
Everyone agreed that the participatory nature of FEAST and VCA created a direct, deeper kind of interaction and communication with farmers and other actors along the value chain and that this was extremely useful. In fact, the process of implementing these tools in itself had been very beneficial for creating greater understanding and interaction between researchers , farmers, traders and other stakeholders.
Story by Werner Stur